Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI)
Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) is a noninvasive test that uses a large magnet and radio waves to produce detailed images of organs, tissues, bones and other body structures. Unlike CT scans or X-rays, the test does not expose you to any radiation.
UNC Medical Center is accredited in MRI and breast MRI by the American College of Radiology (ACR), so you can be assured you’re receiving high-quality care from professionals with specialized training.
When Is MRI Used?
Because MRI scans create very accurate, high-resolution images, the tests are used to diagnose or monitor a variety of conditions. Your doctor may use MRI to:
- See parts of your body that can’t easily be viewed with another imaging test, such as your organs, blood vessels or lymph nodes
- Diagnose conditions in your heart, liver or other abdominal organs
- Detect and diagnose abnormalities of the brain or spinal cord
- Identify tumors or cysts
- Investigate the cause of pelvic pain in women
- Evaluate injuries to your joints, ligaments, tendons or cartilage
MRI also may be used to guide a surgeon during a biopsy procedure.
Tell your physician if you’re pregnant or have metal or electronic devices in your body, such as a pacemaker or an artificial joint. He or she will tell you whether it’s OK to get an MRI scan.
MRI Scan: What to Expect
When you come to UNC Medical Center for an MRI scan, wear loose, comfortable clothing without metal button, zippers or clasps. Your doctor may ask you to avoid food or fluids before the test; and you should follow instructions for the most accurate results.
You may be asked to change into a hospital gown, or to remove jewelry, glasses, hearing aids or dentures before your test. For some MRI tests, you’ll receive an injection of contrast material, or dye, to make areas of your body show up better on the images.
MRI exams are painless and usually take 20 minutes to an hour. You’ll lie on an exam table, which gently glides into the MRI machine. The exam includes several rounds of scans; you’ll be asked to lie very still while images are being recorded to avoid blurring. MRI machines are noisy. You may receive earplugs or headphones to help block out the noise.
A technologist will supervise the exam from an adjacent room. Your technologist will be able to see, hear and speak with you through the test; you can communicate with an intercom.
Making MRI More Comfortable For You
At UNC Medical Center, you’ll find advanced technology that creates high-quality images as efficiently as possible, so your exam is finished more quickly.
If you experience claustrophobia or require more space inside the scanner, take advantage of our “short bore” MRI machines with wide openings.
Your MRI Results
A radiologist will interpret your results and give a report to your doctor. Your doctor will share the results with you and discuss any follow-up care.